Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai "George"
by Ian Robertson
The N1K2 Shiden Kai "Violet Lightning", better known to the allies as "George", was one of Japan's best wartime fighters (at least in potential).
The land-based "George" evolved from the N1K1 Kyofu "Rex" floatplane fighter which was developed in the early 1940's for the invasion of Pacific islands where airbases were nonexistent. By late 1943, when it was clear Japan did not require fighters for offensive amphibious operations due to the shifting fortunes of war, the "Rex" was revamped into the N1K1-J Shiden "George".
Despite flashes of brilliant performance, the N1K1 was plagued by poor engine performance and weak landing gear due to the mid wing design, a legacy from its floatplane predecessor. In response to these deficiencies, the N1K2-J Shiden Kai was drastically redesigned into a simpler aircraft with 23,000 fewer parts than the N1K1, including a low-mounted wing, shorter landing gear, and new tail. Although the N1K2 was a formidable opponent for Hellcats and Corsairs, nagging engine problems and late arrival in the war reduced its impact.
Hasegawa have completely retooled their 1/48 scale N1K2-J "George". This kit sports finely engraved panel lines, a detailed cockpit, and the option for lowered flaps. My initial exuberance for the kit was tempered by my discovery that there was no cowl in the kit I purchased!
After a period of extreme annoyance it dawned on me to check the old Hasegawa N1K2 George kit (with raised panel lines) stuffed at the back of my shelf. Luckily the cowl on the old kit was a near perfect match for the new kit, with only some minor filling with plasticard required on the underside.
Not much else to say about building this kit - it went together with no difficulty whatsoever.
Among the many color options for this aircraft (!) I settled for Japanese navy green over natural metal. I first sprayed the entire model using SNJ metallizer, and then used Polly Scale acrylic paint for the upper surface green.
Chipped paint and scratches were simulated by lightly sanding the green paint until the metal finish was exposed. Some scratches were touched up with a silver pencil. Exhaust stains were applied with an airbrush and highly thinned black paint.
The cockpit was painted a mixture of light brown, yellow and olive green. The propeller was painted with AeroMaster RLM 81a (faded brown-violet) mixed with a touch of olive drab.
The antenna wire is stretched sprue.
I botched the number code decal on the tail (it supposed to be 343-45) and used numbers from my stash of spare decals (51 was the best style match I could come up with). While I was at it I added three kill markings. I found the decals for the fuselage stripes very difficult to apply without ripping.
The double red stripes on my model started out as double yellow stripes, and then a single white stripe, until finally I managed to get the red ones on without ripping. Be warned - they are a fiddle.
The release of the N1K2 George is yet another welcome addition to the growing number of Japanese WWII aircraft kits released over the last few years. Expectations will be high for the much anticipated B5N Kate (Hasegawa), the unanticipated but welcome J1N1 Irving (Tamiya) and the Ki-43 Oscar (Hasegawa). If recent releases are any indication, these will be superb kits as well.
Model, Text and Images Copyright © 2000 by Ian